Legislative Update

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A mid-week legislative update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Luige del Puerto.

Ted Simons: Governor Brewer called the legislature into a special session today. This, as lawmakers continue to go over the governor's budget plans. Here with the latest from the state capitol is Luige del Puerto of "The Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Luige del Puerto: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: I guess the big news down there is a special session for one particular issue and that issue is this waiver. Talk to us about that.

Luige del Puerto: Yes, the governor issued her call for a special session last night and the legislature complied and hastily convened into a special session today. The issue is the governor wants to seek a Medicaid waiver, basically, the state -- Governor Brewer's proposing to cut the budget by about -- the budget for AHCCCS by about $542 million. If we did that, we need to ask the federal government for permission because under the federal healthcare law, we cannot cut our spending or eligibility levels for Medicaid. So we need to ask for her permission.

Ted Simons: And that's maintenance of effort required for federal law.

Luige del Puerto: That's correct.

Ted Simons: Ok now this is a request for a waiver. No guarantee at all that the Obama administration, the federal government, anyone in Washington is going to say ok.

Luige del Puerto: Precisely, and that's one of the points. Democrats who basically said, well, you know, the Obama administration will not grant us this waiver and they will not grant us this waiver because, you know, our case is not special. All our cases are facing the same budgetary problems that we're facing, therefore, if the Obama administration grants us a waiver, they'd have to extend the same to all other states.

Ted Simons: Not only that but even with the waiver, there's a lawsuit possible on this because this is voter approved.

Luige del Puerto: Andy Biggs was president of the senate appropriations committee said today that lawsuits are very likely because, you know, voters basically in 2000 said we're going to expand coverage and there's language in the proposition that says -- basically says whether we can use state funds and to what extent we can use state funds. The democrats are saying we have to fund this program. And the Republicans are countering the argument, saying there's some wiggle room in that proposition and we can choose not to fund AHCCCS.

Ted Simons: Was there much in the way of debate on this or was everyone pretty much on board?

Luige del Puerto: Debate in the sense that Republicans are pretty much agreeable, I think, to this proposal. The house and senate appropriation committees passed a -- at the committee level, this proposal today, it was a pretty -- it was a party line vote meaning...

Ted Simons: Sure.

Luige del Puerto: The Republicans supported it and the Democrats opposed it. There was much discussion in the senate, there was much discussion in the house but I think Republicans will pass this proposal tomorrow.

Ted Simons: I was going to say -- yeah, when we mentioned debate I meant Republicans there because obviously, the Democrats weren't too happy about it. But the Republicans pretty much went along?

Luige del Puerto: Well you know, they're agreeable to the idea, although senator Ron Gould told me today that they doesn't think the federal government will grant us this waiver and basically at this point, why would they grant us this waiver? And to his mind, it's a exercise in futility. But he said we have to go through this process, we have to go through this motion. And then when the -- when and if the federal government denies us that waiver, we can then at that point find out what we're going to do next.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing down there, regarding the governor's ideas of more power in terms of line item vetoes and altering the budget once a legislative process is done? Sounds like she might get blowback on that.

Luige del Puerto: Well on the contrary-- legislative leaders are, you know, they're -- here's the thing. If, if Napolitano was asking this, I think you would expect Republicans to basically have some uproar against this one. We're not seeing it from legislative leaders, in this particular case. We have John Kavanagh and Russell Pearce basically saying well if her intention is to cut spending which is in line with, shall we say, philosophical ideas on government, that's fine with them.

Ted Simons: So basically it's ok if we want to alter the constitution for this what, now, but what happens again if you get a democratic governor in there and all of a sudden, the tables change?

Luige del Puerto: Well, and certainly that's the big question, but to their mind, anything that cuts down, trims the size of government is fine by them. So an intrusion, if that's what it is, an intrusion into their appropriation authority, as long as it gets them to their goal, that's ok with them.

Ted Simons: We are going to talk more about this in a second here but as far as this loan from first things first, the one-day loan, how is that going over down there?

Luige del Puerto: Well surprisingly, the signal from the legislature is encouraging for the governor. I also spoke with the executive director of first things first and they seem to be amenable to the idea. The legislature, the reaction is pretty much, you know, we -- we understand it's a budget gimmick, we don't like it's a gimmick but we probably need do it because there's no much choice in this particular case.

Ted Simons: And the same kind of idea regarding the rollover for public education and other quote/unquote gimmicks.

Luige del Puereto: True.

Ted Simons: Ok. Any other surprises going on down there?

Luige del Puerto: The thing about the $330 million rollover is that, like said earlier, if it was offered or proposed five, six years ago, there would be an uproar against it, but Ron Gould said and he's among those who are pretty much dead set against this particular idea, he said, in this case, we're not -- it used to reflect light to confuse people. Before, now we're not even doing it in this case. It's just right there. It's a blatant gimmick to his mind and that's what it is.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, that's all the time we've got. Luige, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Luige del Puerto: Thank you.

Luige del Puerto:Arizona Capitol Times;

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